Mike Pilavachi speaks out on musicians in Britain's Churches

MIKE PILAVACHI, the leader of the Soul Survivor event, has spoken out about how musicians in Britain's churches are undervalued and misunderstood. He surprised a meeting of a thousand worship leader musicians in the US recently by asking if their pastors had ever hurt them and if their God-given dreams to create music had been suppressed by their home church. One observer counted 120 who immediately moved forward to be prayed for, as Mike Pilavachi went on to speak of how creativity threatens a conservative church, and how, as pastors hold greater authority than musicians, one side always loses. "We now have this whole 'war' between pastors and musicians - pastors think of musicians as undisciplined and egocentric and the musicians say their pastors never encourage them," he told the Americans. "One of the things that I've been so sad to see all over the world is musicians on the fringe of the Church carrying so much pain. For many musicians, church has become the most uncomfortable place to be.

Back in Britain, Mike Pilavachi spoke to Christian Herald. "I confess that I felt more liberated to say it in California, because one can be honest at the other side of the world, without fearing repercussions! But it wasn't planned in advance - I just knew for a fact at the conference that it seemed right to talk about it, and they came forward in droves. As they did, I realised these were just the ones who hadn't already given up on church - these were the ones still hanging in there. Over the years my own church has become stuffed to bursting with musicians like this who are hurting, and some are so broken it's taken them two years to trust me. For some, we're still waiting - and it's all they can do to get there on a Sunday."

The problem exists because creative musicians are always looking to develop in new directions, and new ways of worship do not always appeal to their ministers. Occasionally, acknowledges Mike Pilavachi, this is clearly the fault of the musicians. "It's true that some musicians who have not lived godly lives have been in it for themselves - and a pastor can smell when a worship leader's motivation is wrong. Some have been shallow and therefore they have expressed things which have not been biblically accurate. But when there has been a disagreement, the pastors are power crazed, want to tell them what to sing and will pull them off after 20 minutes in spite of whatever they may have created. The pastors in turn say it's impossible to find musicians who will take correction without going into floods of tears! So in most churches we have what is, at best, an uneasy alliance." So what should both sides do? The answer, says Mike Pilavachi, is humility on both sides - but even as a pastor himself, he believes that his side has to make the first move. "The major onus is on us pastors. The way that Matt Redman and I work, it's Matt who has the talent, and I who have the power - and I can abuse that power easily by dismissing his opinion without giving him a hearing. That's why the casualties are the musicians - that's why we have so many musicians at the periphery of the Church when they should be at the heart of it. They know that just to be included in the church, they have to swallow a lot of their creativity and leave a lot at the door. So we pastors need to make the first move, to serve our musicians. We're usually brilliant at talking, but it's time for us to get beside our brothers, listen to their vision, and ask questions...gently." CR

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